The Shirelles were one of the most popular recording groups during the late 1950s and early 1960s, highlighting the doo-wop era with such classics as "Soldier Boy," "Tonight's the Night," "Mama Said," "Baby, it's You," "This is Dedicated to the One I Love," and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"
The Shirelles recorded 11 singles that went to the top of the Billboard charts. The Supremes was the only other all-female group to duplicate that feat.
Shirley Alston Reeves was the lead singer of the Shirelles. Known as Shirley Owens at the time, she was a student at Passaic High School, along with classmates and group members Doris Jackson, Mickey Harris, and Beverly Lee.
The daughter of the famous record producer Florence Greenberg discovered the Shirelles singing in a Passaic talent show in the spring of 1958.
"We sang, 'Met Him on a Sunday' for the talent show and Mary Jane Greenberg came up to us after the show," said Reeves, who will perform Wednesday night in Weehawken in the Summer Concerts on the Hudson series produced by the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center.
She added, "We wrote the original song for that talent show. Mary Jane said her mother owned a record company called Tiara Records, and Florence wanted us to come and sing for her in her home in Passaic Park. That was the beginning of our career."
150 shows a year
Reeves said that the association with Greenberg almost never happened.
"When Mary Jane first said 'Tiara Records,' I felt real bad and told her that maybe we would come around some day when it was a better company," Reeves said. "I never heard of Tiara Records. But we made the charts with 'Met Him on a Sunday,' and that was it."
That's how a legendary career was born and it culminated in 1996 when the Shirelles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Although the original Shirelles no longer perform together - Jackson and Harris are now deceased and Lee performs with a group called The Original Shirelles - Reeves is still singing those memorable hits all over the country and the world in about 150 shows per year.
"I always thought that it would eventually just end," Reeves said. "But even when we decided to go our separate ways, it never stopped. I was never in need of a job and I'm still going strong."
Reeves said there was only one time where she took a respite from performing.
"In 1976, I took time off because I gave birth to my daughter," Reeves said. "But after that year, I've been at it ever since. Music has been good to me. None of us ever became millionaires, because producers and managers got it all. But we were able to hold our own. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do."
Reeves said she is overjoyed that doo-wop music is making a triumphant return in nostalgic shows all across the country, especially in recent PBS performances.
"I was asked the other day, 'How do you feel performing the same songs every night?' " Reeves said. "I said, 'I'm not performing the songs to the same people.' The fans are so very appreciative and I have found that there is a new audience of younger fans that love the music as well. It's still strong more than 40 years later."
Reeves, who resides in Hillside in Union County, said she loves performing in outdoor venues, especially ones close to home.
"I'm sure it's going to be wonderful with Manhattan as a backdrop," Reeves said about her upcoming performance. "I do a lot of concerts outside. I used to regularly perform in outdoor concerts at the World Trade Center. The concerts were always over too quickly. It's sad it's gone."
Reeves said that she is willing to perform anywhere she is requested, and she spoke of one recent interesting personal request.
"A friend of mine is an undertaker in Passaic and she just celebrated her 25th anniversary in the business," Reeves said. "She asked me to perform, so I did."
Reeves understands that concertgoers will come wanting to hear the Shirelles standards.
"But we won't do just the Shirelles," Reeves said. "We'll do a little bit of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bobby Lewis. I don't discriminate. I'll sing anything."
Love them tomorrow
But it's the Shirelles hits that will likely make the Baby Boomers fall in love all over again and younger lovers swoon as well.
"People have a good time remembering those times," Reeves said. "It will be just like the old days."
HRPAC Executive Director Bruce Sherman is looking forward to welcoming a legend to the Summer Concerts on the Hudson series.
"It's an honor to have someone of Shirley Alston Reeves' stature on our summer series," Sherman said. "It's not often that you get to present someone from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I'm certain that young and old will get a kick out of hearing her sing her hits. The turnout should be large as I know that people will want to come and show their appreciation for the many years of pleasure that Shirley has given to her fans."
Shirley Alston Reeves will perform Wednesday, Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Harbor Park in Weehawken in the Lincoln Harbor section on the waterfront. The show is part of the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center's Summer Concerts on the Hudson Series. Some chairs will be provided, but concertgoers are asked to bring their own chairs and blankets. In case of bad weather, call the HRPAC's hotline at (201) 716-4540 on the day of the scheduled concert for updates or log on to www.hrpac.org.